If you have no trouble playing songs and using scales, and you want to improve your lead guitar skills so you sound more professional, here are the top 10 guitar solos I recommend you learn. These solos will teach you important things you need to know about scale usage, keys, technique, and tone. And if your ultimate goal is to improvise, these solos will provide you with a vocabulary of licks and phrases to use in your own solos.
- “Let It Be” The Beatles (Main Solo From Single Version at 1:58)
There are actually a few different solos that were recorded for this song. You can learn any one of them. My favorite is what I believe to be the second solo, which was included on the single version of the song. This solo is good to learn because it’s fairly easy to play, it makes use of the major pentatonic scale, and it features all the articulations you need to know including hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and bends.
- “The Thrill Is Gone” B.B. King (Intro Solo)
Like “Let It Be,” this solo is fairly easy to play and sticks to simple pentatonic scale patterns, however it uses the minor pentatonic. Learning solos in both the major and minor pentatonic will show you how to phrase appropriately in each key. “The Thrill Is Gone” is played in the position of pentatonic patterns 1 and 2. It also includes a lot of bends you want to know if you want to play blues and blues-based music like rock.
- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” The Beatles (Main Solo at 1:55)
Here’s another song by The Beatles, but this solo was actually played by Eric Clapton. It’s in a minor key and uses the minor pentatonic, but it’s played mostly in the position of pattern 4. It also features big step-and-a-half bends and some very rapid vibrato. Playing this solo is quite the workout and it’s great for strengthening your fingers.
- “Ramblin’ Man” Allman Brothers Band (First Main Solo at 1:12)
Back to a major key with this solo. “Ramblin’ Man” makes use of the major pentatonic, the major blues scale, and the full major scale. It moves quickly and features some slinky horizontal position shifting. I play this with my guitar toggle switch in the middle position and the neck pickup volume rolled off slightly, which is a setting often used by Dicky Betts.
- “Still Got the Blues” Gary Moore (Main Solo at 2:27)
Back to a minor key with this one, but this solo makes use of the full minor scale. This solo is very melodic and makes use of whole steps and half steps as well as whole step and half bends. Each phrase targets chord tones to connect the lead line closely to the chord progression. Gary Moore used a high-gain distortion pedal, a neck humbucker, and then he rolled back the tone knob to get a gloriously thick, singing sound.
- “Comfortably Numb” Pink Floyd (Solo 1 at 2:04)
There are two different solos in this song, one played in a major key and the other played in a minor key. Both are excellent solos worth learning. I want to focus on Solo 1 which is played in D major. What I love about this solo is David Gilmour’s use of chord arpeggios. By basing his phrases on chord tones, he created one of the most melodic and memorable solos of all time. He made the solo more expressive by masterfully using bends and adding vibrato with a tremolo system.
- “Stairway to Heaven” Led Zeppelin (Main Solo at 5:55)
Did you think I could get through this list without mentioning one of the most famous guitar songs of all time? This solo is played in a minor key, sticks mainly to pentatonic patterns but cleverly adds an additional note to outline one of the underlying chords. There are many great elements to this solo worth learning, but perhaps the best takeaway is how Jimmy Page builds the solo section to section getting more and more dynamic before landing the plane slowly and then, setting it on fire!
- “All Right Now” Free (Main Solo at 2:04)
This solo has sections that make use of the major pentatonic, and sections that make use of the minor pentatonic. It’s a great introduction to how blues and rock players go back and forth between major and minor tonalities. It also features great licks.
- “Johnny B. Goode” Chuck Berry (Intro and Main Solo at 1:25)
This song is a staple of any cover band setlist. The solo sections not only make use of major and minor tonalities, but the two tonalities are mixed at the same time. By playing this solo, you learn how to create lead lines that include both major and minor intervals, which is an important part of the blues and rock sound.
- “Hard to Handle” The Black Crowes (Solos at 1:57 and 2:33)
I finish my list with this solo because it’s another great example of mixing major and minor intervals, which, again, is a big part of the blues and rock sound. I put this solo last because it’s hard to understand how it works if you haven’t worked through the solos that come before it on my list.
Top 10 Guitar Solos You Should Learn
So there you have it. My list of the top 10 guitar solos you should learn. I chose these solos because they are familiar and they demonstrate important things about soloing you need to understand if you want to get any good at it. These things include:
- Using articulations such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and bends
- Playing in major keys
- Playing in minor keys
- Using pentatonic scale patterns
- Using full major and minor scale patterns
- Using arpeggios and targeting chord tones
- Mixing major and minor tonalities
Most importantly, learning these types of solos is the only way to build a vocabulary of licks and phrases to use in your own improvisations.
Soloing is like learning a new language. To learn a new language, you must immerse yourself in it and learn all the common expressions. Only then will you be able to speak fluently.
So, if you want to guitar solo fluently, immerse yourself in it. Working through my list of 10 solos would be a great, well-rounded approach.
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